Movie Review: High Life

Robert Pattinson in space. It’s a concept, particularly for a man who amassed enough money early in his career that he can make whatever he wants for the rest of his life. He’s been in a limousine, he’s been a fascist, and now he’s practically alone on his way to a black hole. An existentialist French project, what we’ve always dreamed of for the man. High Life is less hard science fiction than it is difficult science fiction, but it works.

Movie Review: Men In Black — International

Men In Black was a genuine mid-to-late nineties phenomenon, released at that transitory time between VHS and DVD. Agents J and K returned twice more over the following fifteen years, with somewhat diminishing returns. People don’t like to admit it, but a way to refresh a franchise without rebooting it is to shift character focus and location. Cue Men In Black: International, a European alien adventure featuring two fan favourite Marvel actors, and a different perspective on intergalactic relations. Men In Black: International should be funnier than it is, but it does not have any of the bloat that one might expect from a 22 year old franchise.

Movie Review: Papi Chulo

There’s a classic genre: man has a public meltdown, goes into seclusion, and gradually grapples with his depression. Papi Chulo takes this idea and posits: what if the depressed man was gay? Andrew Sean Greer won the Pulitzer for a similar concept, and so writer-director John Butler (Handsome Devil) dares to dream. Papi Chulo is a sweet but often painful examination of one man’s life behind his impossibly cheery facade.

Movie Review: X-Men — Dark Phoenix

All things come to an end, but some come to more of an end than others. X-Men: Dark Phoenix is set to be the final X-Men movie after nineteen years, so you’d think that they would swing for the fences, try something big. In Dark Phoenix, writer Simon Kinberg (TV’s The Twilight Zone) attempts to revisit the story that he famously botched in 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand. The good news: it’s nothing like that movie; the bad: it’s nothing much like anything, really. Logan was an ending but, with this addendum, nearly two decades fizzle out on the screen.

Movie Review: Godzilla II — King of the Monsters

A wise Hulk once said “big monster”. He wasn’t talking about Godzilla, but these two words sum up Godzilla II: King of the Monsters regardless. In 2014, Godzilla was controversial because it barely featured the title beast, and his opponents were nondescript. Godzilla II: King of the Monsters not only takes a mere minute to feature our hero, he has a whole menagerie of distinct fiends and friends to commune with. 2019 is a good year for fans of giant lizards.

Movie Review: Rocketman

The musical biopic, just like the bitch, is back. After the success of Bohemian Rhapsody, we almost immediately have Rocketman, which does more for Elton John than the former ever did for Queen. Movies should not always be reviewed via direct comparison, except there is an important connection between the two: Dexter Fletcher (Eddie the Eagle) is openly the director of Rocketman, and he was the secret director of Bohemian Rhapsody after Bryan Singer was fired. Where Bohemian Rhapsody was a spectacular creative failure and a massive commercial success, Rocketman is an actual movie, with an aesthetic, a voice, and not total contempt for its ostensible star. Rocketman is still a music biopic, with all the drawbacks of the genre, but it at least attempts something with the form.

Movie Review: Aladdin

Aladdin is the second of three live action adaptations of classic Disney cartoons released in 2019. After the retrofuturistic art deco Dumbo, which took extreme liberties with the source material, Guy Ritchie’s (King Arthur: Legend of the SwordAladdin is a more straightforward piece. With an extra forty minutes to fill and a desire to give Princess Jasmine more agency, the new Aladdin has its points of difference without compromising its story. Even without the spontaneity of Robin Williams, who practically invented improv animation, Aladdin still has something to recommend it.

Book Review: Hot Dog Girl — Jennifer Dugan

There’s a general rule in Young Adult fiction that applies often enough to stick: if a story is about a boy with deep-seated character flaws, the characters around must adapt to accommodate him; if it is about a similar girl, she will have to undergo some growth and change so that the people in her life don’t give up on her forever. Hot Dog Girl, possibly one of the best cover and title combos on the YA market this year, definitely falls into this mould.

Elouise May Parker is a piece of work, and no one in her book understands her cockamamie scheme.

Book Review: Lot — Bryan Washington

If batrock.net was a paid outlet, Lot would likely be given to a queer person of colour to review. As this is a one man outfit, that’s not an option, but this review of Lot will attempt to tackle the stories contained within this collection without the air of tourism or gentrification.

Short stories, that publishing bastion which was once dominated by genre and feared by book vendors, are suddenly commercially viable. Between Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s Friday Black and Bryan Washington’s Lot, the form is receiving a renaissance of public attention. Lot itself is a stunning debut collection that asks the reader what constitutes a collection of short stories and what makes up a loose novel, when every story shares the same neighbourhood and most of them the same narrator. Regardless of its taxonomy, Lot is a book worth more than dipping into.

Book Review: The Scholar — Dervla McTiernan

Can anyone truly know the law? So many crime novels are predicated on police ignoring conflicts of interest that you’d think they’d never heard of recusing themselves. The Scholar, Dervla McTiernan’s second Cormac Reilly outing, appears to take the procedure out of the procedural, but it’s not a bad novel for that.